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Latin American Futsal, Compacted Version Of Soccer Gaining Rapid Popularity In California

COSTA MESA ( — As accessible wide open spaces, commonly required for those playing a game of soccer, grow increasingly scarce in Southern California, a new, compact version of the sport is rapidly gaining popularity.

For years, a large portion of the athletic fields at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa was going to waste. Finally, the installation of an artificially turfed field changed that, along with the $75,000 installation of three smaller multipurpose courts.

It is on these smaller courts that the game of futsal has exploded on the California athletic and recreational scene.

"A field space is tough to come by nowadays," Pateadores club director Jon Szczuka said. "The coaches are happy because of the skill set that's involved with it, and the players are happy because they get to play a game."

Played in Latin American countries for years, futsal, a compacted version of soccer, has sprouted up on both indoor and outdoor courts, as well as on tennis and basketball courts.

As opposed to the 11 active players on a soccer team, futsal is played with five to a team, and uses a smaller, heavier ball. The game also emphasizes foot skills, passing and decision-making.

"Everything is just so small," Pateadores player Luis Leon said. "And everybody is just so tight, which makes you think faster, and it's just all about your technical (skills) and speed."

Players, meanwhile, are glad the land was used for something they could take advantage of, rather than anything else.

"With the addition of the futsol courts, our campus safety actually said 'hey, that's a great cement slab, like a usable space, can we use that for parking' and we were like 'nope, soccer training'," Vanguard University's Nolan Steputis said.

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